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Your Curlies Golden Years


The Golden Years


When does a pet become "old"?

It varies, but small dogs are generally considered geriatric at the age of 7. Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans and are considered geriatric when they are approximately 6 years of age.
Owners tend to want to think of their pet's age in human terms. While it is not as simple as "1 human year = X dog years", there are calculations that can help put a pet's age in human terms:

Age: Human Equivalents for Older Pets

Dog years Human years 
7 Small – Medium: 44-47 years
Large – Very large: 50-56 years
10 Small – Medium: 56-60 years
Large – Very large: 66-78 years
15 Small – Medium: 76-83 years
Large – Very large: 93-115 years
20 Small – Medium: 96-105 years
Large: 120 years
*Small: 0-20 lbs; Medium: 21-50 lbs; Large: 51-90 lbs; Very large: >90 lbs
The oldest recorded age of a cat is 34 years. The oldest recorded age of a dog is 29 years

Basic Needs Of Older Dogs

timcoat Among the basic things owners need to know about raising older pets, Dodman says, is that older dogs are typically more sensitive to extreme temperature changes because of changes in their metabolism.

"They're really like older people," he explains. "Older people are often the ones who are the victims of these freezing bouts or extremes of heat. They're less able to thermoregulate. So we have to take account of that by making sure they have some kind of blanketlike coat or contraption on to keep them warm and not keep them out so long in cold weather. The same goes for heat. You really don't want to leave them out in the yard, especially tied up on an extremely hot day. They can dehydrate. They're less able to cope with the change in temperature, and it's a recipe for disaster."




Your dog may be slowing down but that doesn’t mean he should spend his days curled up on the couch. Exercise is critical to keeping your dog healthy, both physically and mentally. Your dog may not be able to go on long hikes with you but shorter, less strenuous walks will keep him feeling good.

2863_1143161096942_7922284_n According to Dr. Ward, “Exercise is critical to keeping your pet youthful – Keeping a pet lean as they age is one of the most important factors in preventing health issues.

Extra pounds on older dogs means more stress on their body, including joints and internal organs. If you feel your dog needs to shed a few pounds, talk with your veterinarian about a weight loss and exercise plan.
The large mass or weight of the dog will stress the joints further,  You can often get a lot of relief  from joint pain  if you can get him down to his fighting weight.

Good nutrition is important at every age, but, according to Dr. Ernie Ward, veterinarian and senior pet health expert. “Feeding your pet the proper nutrition in their senior years… is critical to… keeping them active and playful.”

Talk with your vet about the type of diet your dog needs. Your vet can make recommendations about quality brands, ingredients or special formulas your senior dog needs to thrive.



Is my pet becoming senile?

old5 Possibly. Once any underlying or other disease causes have been ruled out, there is a chance your pet may be experiencing cognitive dysfunction. Studies conducted in the early 1990s were the first to identify brain changes in older dogs that were similar to brain changes seen in humans with Alzheimer's disease (ie, ß-amyloid deposits). Laboratory tests were also developed in the 1990s to detect learning and memory deficits in older dogs. Recently these studies have started on younger dogs in order to fully understand the effect of aging on the canine brain. Similar studies in young and older cats are also ongoing.

While researchers are still not able to identify any genetic cause of why certain animals develop cognitive dysfunction, there are drugs and specific diets available that can help manage cognitive dysfunction in dogs. If you think your pet is becoming senile, discuss it with your veterinarian.


When should we euthanize a pet? How will we know it's the right time?10365836_10204180566048675_672620343384235787_n

This can be an incredibly difficult question for both the owner and the veterinarian, and is often a very tough decision to make. Sometimes, euthanasia is obviously the best thing to do for your pet. At other times, however, it can be less clear. An open discussion with your veterinarian, including an honest evaluation of your pet's quality of life, should help you make the decision.

One way to determine if your aging pet is still enjoying life and can remain with us a little longer is by using a "Quality of Life" scale to determine if the animal's basic needs are being met. This scale can be helpful for the veterinarian and pet owner when deciding what is best for your pet. In this scale, pets are scored on a scale of 1 through 10 in each category, with 10 being the highest score for quality of life. Again, only an honest evaluation of each category will help with the decision. Because the scoring is subjective, this score should be a part, but not the sole driver, of your decision based on your pet's individual situation.

Score Criterion
0-10 HURT Adequate pain control (including breathing ability)
0-10 HUNGER Is the pet eating enough? Does the pet require hand-feeding or a feeding tube?
0-10 HYDRATION Is the pet dehydrated? Does it need subcutaneous fluids?
0-10 HYGIENE Pet needs to be brushed and clean, especially after elimination
0-10 HAPPINESS Does the pet express joy/interest? Does it respond to its environment? Does the pet show signs of boredom/loneliness/anxiety/fear?
0-10 MOBILITY Can the pet get up without assistance does the pet want to go for a walk? Is the pet experiencing seizures/stumbling?
0-10 MORE GOOD THAN BAD When bad days start to outnumber good days, the quality of life becomes compromised and euthanasia needs to be considered
Total A total of 35 points is considered acceptable for a quality of life score.



Behavioral changes that you may see in your older dog include:

10464329_10203912086742958_4363682701164348403_n Separation may note that when you leave your older dog alone, she become destructive or barks or whines or loses control of elimination

Sensitivity to noise....thunderstorms that never bothered him before may now make your older dog tremble

Vocalizing....may be due to loss of hearing or to separation anxiety

Uncharacteristic aggression....may be due to painful joints, a drug reaction, or intolerance for new people and new circumstances; your older dog likes things to remain the same

Confusion, lack of attentiveness, disorientation....

Roaming in circles, barking at nothing, being withdrawn....

Elimination accidents....

Urinary incontinence and loss of housetraining
Urinary incontinence is involuntary or uncontrollable leaking of urine from the bladder. In older dogs, especially spayed females, small quantities of urine may leak from the urethra while the dog is resting or sleeping. Treatment for incontinence is usually not difficult. Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) and estrogens, such as diethylstilbestrol, are commonly used.

Some older dogs who have been housetrained for years, may start having 'accidents.' As with other behavior problems in older dogs, there may be multiple causes for this change in behavior. Any older dog with a house soiling problem should be examined by a veterinarian and the owner should be able to give a detailed history of the color and amount of urine (or stool) passed, the frequency at which the dog needs to eliminate, changes in eating or drinking habits, the dog's posture while eliminating, and whether the 'accidents' only occur when the owner is gone. Medical conditions contributing to the house soiling problem should be treated appropriately. Prostate enlargement

When an unneutered male dog reaches 8 years of age, he has a greater than 80% chance of developing prostate disease, but it is rarely cancerous. In most cases, the prostate just enlarges. The prostate enlargement, however, can cause problems with urination or defecation. Older male dogs, especially those who are not neutered should have their prostate gland checked as part of the regular physical exam. The risk of prostate disease can be greatly reduced if the dog is neutered.



Pax wears a harness so his owners can help him stand


Difficulty in getting up from a lying position, or other problems with moving may indicate arthritis. Your vet will be able to advise you on ways you can relieve your dog's discomfort and lack of mobility.

Problems with vision and hearing are natural as a dog ages. Accommodate these changes as best you can -- by not changing the location of furniture, for example, or clapping instead of calling your dog's name when he no longer seems able to hear you.

Graying hair and drying skin are sure signs of aging. More attention to grooming and the introduction of massage will help the condition of the skin and coat.

Skin and hair coat changes
305774_2099952538467_1390805190_n As with people, older dogs may start to show gray hair; this most commonly occurs on the muzzle and around the eyes. The haircoat may become thinner and duller, however, this can also be a sign of disease or nutritional deficiency. Fatty acid supplements may help restore some of the luster to the coat. If the haircoat of an older dog changes significantly, the dog should be checked by a veterinarian. Older dogs may need to be groomed more often, with special attention given to the anal area. Grooming is a great way for you to spend some enjoyable time with your older dog. He will love the attention.


The skin of the older dog may become thinner, and thus more subject to injury. Some older dogs develop multiple benign tumors of the skin, which are generally not removed unless easily traumatized. Cancerous tumors of the skin can also occur. Dry skin can be a problem for older dogs, and again, fatty acid supplements may be beneficial.


dog with callus on elbowIt is common for older, large breed dogs to develop calluses on their elbows. Part of the reason for this is the tendency of older dogs to be less active and lay down more. Especially if they lay down on hard surfaces, calluses are likely to develop. Providing a dog bed, especially an orthopedic bed, can help prevent calluses.

Brittle nails and thickened foot pads
Just as we see changes in the haircoat, we can also see thickening of the foot pads and changes in the nails of older dogs. They may tend to become brittle. Care must be taken in clipping the nails of older dogs, and they may need to be clipped more often, since older inactive dogs are less likely to wear their nails down through activity.


Changes in the eye and vision loss

Many dogs develop a condition of the eye called nuclear sclerosis. In this condition, the lens of the eye appears cloudy, however, the dog can usually see quite well. Many owners are concerned their dog has cataracts (which do affect vision) when the dog really has nuclear sclerosis. Cataracts are common in older dogs of certain breeds, though, as is glaucoma. Any sudden changes in vision or appearance of the eyes could signal an emergency; contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Ophthalmic exams should be part of the physical exam in older dogs.

Hearing loss

Some dogs will experience hearing loss as they age. Slight hearing loss is hard to evaluate in dogs. Often hearing loss is severe before the owner becomes aware of the problem. The first sign noticed may look like aggression. In reality, it may be the dog was unaware of a person's approach, became startled when touched, and instinctively reacted. Owners may also report the dog is no longer obeying commands (the dog no longer hears them).

The hearing loss generally can not be reversed, but some changes in interaction with the dog can help reduce the effects. One of the reasons to teach dogs hand signals for various commands while they are young, is that these hand signals are very useful if the dog develops hearing loss. The use of lights to signal dogs (e.g.; flashing the yard light when you want the dog to come in from outside) can be useful. Dogs with hearing loss can still sense vibration, so clapping hands or stomping on the floor may alert the dog you are trying to communicate with him.

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.


When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.

There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.

There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....